Tonight’s very special outing was a historic first: I attended my very first Indiana Pacers game. The average 41-year-old Hoosier has already attended dozens of Pacers games in their lifetime. I, one among the single-digit minority statewide that doesn’t yearn for sports, never had the opportunity before. Tonight’s deal was irresistible, though: thirteen bucks bought us the cheapest seats possible at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, in the upper atmosphere where oxygen can’t reach and you can hear the sound of harps and gently flapping wings behind you. For this one-time special ticket offer, they also threw in a free T-shirt (none in my current size), free hot dog (large enough for a kid), bag of chips, and soft drink.
My wife and I are of one mind when it comes to sports: we’re not huge fans, but why not anyway. More quality time for us to spend together, and we were treated to new sights, such as the scenic Fieldhouse going rave-tastic with a pregame light show.
When most people brainstorm their bucket list, the first things that pop into their heads are the wildest, most dangerous, and/or most exotic things they’ve never done in their life. Sure, you could start big — go hang-gliding, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, get stabbed by the bulls in Pamplona, fight in a revolution, or make durian ice cream. But how many items on that long list are you skipping over because you’re in a hurry to get to the outlandish and/or the ridiculously expensive. Why not start small and work your way up?
Thus, my first Pacers game. Tonight they squared off against the Charlotte Bobcats, which was an entirely new name to me. I never see them in headlines and thought maybe they were a local high school team, or perhaps a farm team for the Washington Generals. I had no idea. All night long I kept getting them confused with the Carolina Panthers, the Charlotte Hornets, and other teams equally unknown to me. To be fair, though, they held their own on the court all night long, and they behaved themselves during the preshow, time-outs, and halftime.
Fun puzzle for kids: count how many of us old people were taught in school to hold our hand over our heart during every public performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. If you counted more than five, good job!
I know most of the rules of basketball. Between the old neighborhood and gym class, it was part of our childhood curriculum. I don’t know every nuance of the game, but more than enough to follow the action. Just don’t ask me to narrate for others, and don’t ask me the differences between the various team positions, such as center, forward, guard, forward guard, linebacker, buck private, caddy, and key grip.
That’s Roy Hibbert for the Pacers shooting a free throw, one of the few action scenes we caught on camera with only minimal blurriness. Hibbert is also the only current player I knew by name going into the Fieldhouse tonight. We tried to take photos of other players, including the Chesterfield Mountain Lions or whoever, but results were mixed. After a while, my wife grew so frustrated with the view from our aerie that she began cheating and photographing their 50-foot HDTVs. Head Pacer Paul George doesn’t quite look the same from that angle.
I’m proud to report I learned one or two other Pacers’ names that night. Along with Paul George and Dr. Hibbert, there’s also a white guy named Scola, and…uh, another guy with a long name. And maybe one more player I’ve forgotten. Don’t ask me who played for the Corpus Christi Cougars tonight, because none of them received much screen time.
I also didn’t know this fuzzy fellow’s name. The internet tells me his name is Boomer the Panther, who must feel really conflicted whenever the Carolina Panthers come to town.
Also down on the court sometimes: our Indiana Pacemates, who danced and entertained the crowd, but only during time-outs. Apparently the players are insecure and don’t like being overshadowed, so the Pacemates are kept on a very strict schedule that allows no more than ninety seconds per performance. If they were onstage too long, the audience would forget why they came in the first place, Pacers popularity would plummet, Indianapolis’ entire sports-based economy would collapse, and Greece would laugh at us.
In between scenes of players running back and forth, fouling each other, bouncing the ball off the rim, and standing patiently during time-outs, I kept a running journal of our experience up in Mount Olympus’ basement:
All told, it was nice to see the home team win, considering the Indianapolis Indians lost the first several ballgames that I watched them play.
Before we left, we allowed for a couple of quick indulgences. After the game, fans were allowed to come down to the court and shoot exactly one (1) free throw. I was happy just to hit the rim. Gym class was long ago and far away.
My wife took her shot as well, and then posed with this two-dimensional Roy Hibbert clone on our way out. Full disclosure: Flat Roy’s photo has two or three extra inches between him and the ground, so his height is a little exaggerated here.
Would we do it again? It just depends. I can’t see us shelling out top dollar for season passes, but if the stars aligned and the timing were right, who can say? It’d be interesting to see more well-known personalities and maybe another opponent besides the Chattanooga Cheetahs. Also, if and when we do return, someone should remind me to buy all our concession stand food for the entire evening before we go find our seats up in the Burj Khalifa balcony.